Keith Johnson Photographs



I made the pilgrimage to the Whitney for the Eggleston retro and I left feeling rewarded. The guy can sure see and has always been able to see, but in a way that challenges what photographs are supposed to look like.

In 1975 when I was finishing graduate school we did b&w or most of us did. Most everyone except Eggleston, Shore and Sternfeld. There were others of course but those three guys were the ones who gave the rest of us license. I always understood Shore and Sternfeld but my relationship with Eggleston was love/hate. He didn’t make pictures that looked like pictures we were supposed to make. He used color in a way that confounded what color had been used for. He could make dye transfer prints which of course no one could afford, but he made pictures that made you sit up and take notice. Inside of ovens, freezers for God’s sake, under beds and pictures of dogs drinking muddy water. Who made such pictures and why?

The prints at the Whitney were surprisingly dark and heavy handed. I expected to see prints done in the fashion of the way the pictures had been portrayed in reproductions. They all worked, of course, but not the look I had expected. It was a pleasure to see the work at moderate sizes, most were about 20×24 and they read well.

I left with my love/hate feelings intact although leaning more toward love than hate. There are still several (ok many) pictures that leave me wondering but then there is always a killer picture nearby. The book is a real disappointment as the reproductions are not first rate. The show is down Jan 27 so see it while you can.

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